As the holiday season approaches, like many of you, we can’t wait to spend more quality time with our family and friends. But before we can unwind, we must take care of some important business. …
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As the holiday season approaches, like many of you, we can’t wait to spend more quality time with our family and friends. But before we can unwind, we must take care of some important business.
Every November, it’s our duty as county commissioners to adopt the budget for the next year. There are many needs, but unfortunately our resources are limited.
As many of you know, Jefferson County has faced some financial challenges over the last several years. With limited revenue growth, the county had to make budget cuts to the general fund totaling $16.1 million in 2020 and $8.7 million in 2021.
Although no cuts are planned for 2022, we’re anticipating approximately $14-16 million of cuts in 2023 to the general fund due to recent legislation (SB21-293) that will significantly reduce property tax revenue, which is the single largest revenue source for the county. The legislation provides $200 million in property tax relief to property owners across the state for the next two years. The measure was designed to blunt the negative impact of Proposition 120 had voters approved it. However, Proposition 120 failed during last Tuesday’s election.
These reductions affect essential public services such as public safety, roads and more, and a major impact to programs and services may be experienced in the coming years. We will continue to thoroughly look at operations across all county departments for cost-saving opportunities, greater efficiencies, and greater reductions to achieve a balanced budget, but the cuts alone will not solve the financial challenges the county is experiencing.
We are receiving some federal assistance from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), an economic stimulus bill passed into law in March designed to accelerate the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Jefferson County’s ARPA funding package is $187.2 million. As a local government, $113 million of that total is going directly to Jefferson County while $74.2 million will go to cities and towns in the county.
Because the federal funds are one-time use only, they can only be used for non-recurring expenditures, such as covering operating deficits caused by COVID-19, rather than funding new programs or add-ons to existing programs that require ongoing financial commitment.
We welcome this federal assistance with open arms, particularly considering the financial stress the county is facing. ARPA will help address some specific areas impacted most by the pandemic; however, these funds are more of a life preserver than a rescue boat and do not provide a permanent solution to address the county’s long-term financial challenges.
Key to this work is you and better understanding your top priorities for the county. It’s why we created the Jefferson County Rescue Team to support our community through the distribution of COVID-19 relief funds by providing stewardship, fiscal oversight and compliance with federal regulations for APRA. Since April, we asked the Rescue Team to actively seek public input through several surveys and stakeholder meetings.
It is incredibly important that you, as a community member, help develop funding ideas and prioritize community needs for ARPA dollars. Based on the feedback we received over the past six months, eight priority areas have emerged: housing, behavioral health, workforce readiness, economy recovery, public health and safety, food insecurity, county services and operations, and revenue replacement.
Our next step is to create task forces for each of these eight priority areas to dive deeper and understand the needs and the gaps that exist so we can develop programs that will provide the services and resources our community members need most. Jeffco Commissioners also were invited recently to speak with Gov. Polis about how we can best leverage our county and state dollars as we address these pressing needs.
We know there are more difficult decisions ahead. The county’s financial realities will impact our work as we prioritize the safety and well-being of our community as well as the programs and level of services we can offer. You can view the Financial Realities section of our website at www.jeffco.us for more information.
If you have any questions or comments about the county budget, we encourage you to attend the Board of County Commissioners’ Public Hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 8 a.m. For information on how to attend the hearing in person or virtually, visit www.jeffco.us/meetings.
To learn more about the Jefferson County Commissioners, visit our website or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or individually at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The Jeffco Board of County Commissioners’ public hearings are held on most Tuesdays at 8 a.m. See our Meetings & Agendas page for details.
The Jefferson County Commissioners are Tracy Kraft-Tharp, Andy Kerr and Lesley Dahlkemper.
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